Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Be happy...because we tell you

I have to confess to being rather cynical about the government's latest campaign to encourage happiness. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/ If they are serious about it perhaps they should appoint Ken Dodd as the 'Happiness Tsar' and issue everyone with a tickle-stick. I wonder if there is some ulterior motive in encouraging happiness, such as taking the strain off the NHS? But the Pensions Department might think the opposite as happy people tend to live longer and that puts more strain on the pension funds. (That's why the Church of England Pension Fund is stretched - retired clergy tend to live longer than anyone else.)

To promote happiness by its measurable benefits is rather like the arguments in favour of promoting music in education: it can be shown that involvement in music is beneficial to social and intellectual skills, as well as to the health. But shouldn't the reason for being involved in music simply be to bring pleasure to the soul, as JS Bach said: The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. It's a pity that music has to be justified in schools, and to the Arts Council, these days by its measurable benefits.

Jesus had something to say about happiness (or 'blessedness') but it seems quite at odds with a modern agenda for personal happiness:

Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!

Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!

Happy are the pure in heart;they will see God!

Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!

Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. (Matthew's Gospel - Good News Translation)

It seems to me that true happiness can only be found when there is a fundamentally good meaning to life which, as far as I'm concerned, is only found through the abundant life that Jesus has to offer those who come to him in faith.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Make sure you vote on May 5th

David Cameron is warning voters (perhaps that should be non-voters) of the danger of sleepwalking into an assualt on democracy on May 5th if they don't get out and vote in the referendum on the electoral system. The excitement generated by the AV system is, perhaps, in line with the excitement generated by the Liberal Democrats, but nevertheless if AV goes through as a result of a record-breaking low turnout then democracy will suffer. I am convinced that AV is not a good idea, and these are my reasons:

1) It is incredibly complicated to explain. The booklet that came to our house the other day takes at least 5 times as long to explain the AV system, compared with the 'first past the post' system we currently use. I am moderately interested in politics and consider myself well-educated, but even I struggled to maintain an interest in the finer details. The claim is that the electorate will be more engaged in the process if AV is adopted, but I feel the opposite will happen.

2) It will lead to the least unpopular candidate being elected - a recipe for mediocrity. The Labour Party used AV in its last leadership election, and this is why Ed Milliband became Labour leader rather than his brother.

3) The major parties will pay undue attention to the extremist minorities in order to get their removed votes

4) It is a sop for the Liberal Democrats in return for joining the coalition.

5)The 'Yes' politicians seem to have lost confidence in their ability to persuade people, so they are employing an army of celebrity 'luvvies' to do their work for them. Why should we trust the judgement of the likes of Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard and Colin Firth any more than that of our elected representatives?

6) The whole process is wasting money that could be better spent elsewhere.

So, make sure you vote on May 5th.

Friday, 1 April 2011

I only know little little

Like our erstwhile Bishop of Croydon I was interested to read about Fabio Capello's limited English vocabulary which allows him to give basic football commands, but not to engage in debates about the economy. According to the Oxford English Corpus the 100 most commonly used English words are:

a about after all also an and any as at back be because but by can come could day do even first for from get give good go have he her him his how I if in into it its just know like look make me most my new no now not of on one only or other our out over people say see she so some take the their there they time than that them then these think this to two up us use with you want way we well what who which when will work would year your

Bishop Nick wonders how you can express the gospel using 100 words or fewer. That's easy (read John 3:16). But to express the gospel using the 100 most common words, which don't include 'God', 'Jesus', 'love' or 'world'...that's a challenge. Anway, here is my attempt:

People can not do good. There is a good good one who can make people good because he like all people well.

Now, that sounds more like Fabio!